May 2, 2001.   Because there is general denial from Canadian and U.S.
officials about the toxic nature of tear gas and pepper spray chemicals used
against citizens, and the fact that our countries wont join at least 70
other nations in banning the use of these chemicals, we find it necessary to
publicize scientific information on their danger to health. This is
especially necessary after the massive use of tear gas by the police in
Quebec City during the FTAA protests last week.

Thank you and take care of yourselves,

Quebec 2001 Medical Team - Follow UP
Mailing address (different than our street address):
QPIRG Concordia
c/o Concordia University
1455 de Maisonneuve O
Montreal, Quebec H3G 1M8

This is an excerpt from the June 2000 report on tear gas and health:

(An appraisal of technologies for political control)

Workplan Ref.: EP/IV/B/STOA/99/14/01/A

Publisher: European Parliament
Directorate General for Research
Directorate A
The STOA - Scientific and Technological Options Assessment - Programme

Luxembourg, June 2000 PE 168.394/FinSt.
Author: OMEGA Foundation, Manchester, UK
Editor: Graham Chambers,
Head of STOA Unit
Date: June 2000
PE number: PE 168. 394/Fin.St.

It used to be available at (but no longer is):
then click on Crowd Control Technologies.
The latest direct link to the Crowd Control Technologies is:

Numbers at  the end of the sentences often refer to a footnote number
included at end of the text.

page xx
4.1 Health & Safety Issues Regarding Chemical Irritant Weapons.

The Chemical Weapons Convention defines toxic chemicals as any chemical
which through its
chemical action on life processes can cause death, temporary incapacitation
or permanent harm to humans or animals.75

Within this definition, all chemical irritants used for riot control should
rightly be considered as toxic chemicals. Scientists working at the UK
Chemical Defence Establishment had no illusions about any such toxic
chemicals being given an absolutely safe bill of health.76 Indeed other
scientists have argued that it is almost impossible to have a low toxicity
weapon which is effective and safe at low concentrations.77

Does this comment apply to the most commonly used crowd control irritants?
There are five elements to the alleged safety of any crowd control weapons
based on the use of toxic chemicals to induce disabling effects, namely: the
(i) innate relative
toxicity of the chemical used; (ii) ability of security force personnel to
use the dispersion mechanisms to deliver a measured dose which remains
non-damaging and 'non-lethal'; (iii) relative toxicity and safe dose of any
carrier, solvent or propellant used to deliver the chemical to target
subject(s); (iv) safety from blast damage or fire hazard of any
pyrotechnically dispersed irritant munition; (v) professionalism and
training of any operatives to ensure that such devices are used within the
context of their training, codes of conduct and in accordance with
manufactures instructions.

Any failures in fulfilling set standards in these five elements must imply
that the munition can no longer be described as non-hazardous or

Considering the hazards associated with each of these element in turn:-

4.1.1 Hazards of Crowd Control Chemicals are associated with the way
chemical irritants enter the human body via skin, lungs, mouth, nose and
eye. To assess whether the epithet 'safe' can be applied to the currently
authorised chemical crowd control irritants, it is worth examining the
biomedical research literature used to justify their introduction,
particularly in regard to lung and eye damage, carcinogenicity, mutagenesis,
effects on heart rate, positional asphyxia (asphyxiation aided by the body
position of the victim) and alleged 'non-lethality'.

Experts on chemical warfare refer to safety margins i.e. the ratio of the
lethal to the incapacitating dose. This is a finite measure. If it is
surpassed, deaths will occur. However such agents are capable of producing a
range of permanent injuries and such considerations are legally important
when the targeting of the irritant is less than discriminate and innocent
bystanders fall prey to any effects.

page xxi
CS (the tear gas used in Quebec City)

- There is extensive scientific literature on CS, one recent search claims
to have found 115,107 articles.89 Only some of the most salient aspects can
be discussed here.
Advocates of CS claim that high levels of exposure to CS are precluded
because people are adverse to remaining where this agent is present.90 More
critical authors have noted the lack of epidemiologic inquiry on its use in
actual field conditions.91 However, operational usage sometimes means
individuals face additional punishment or even death if they seek to leave a
contaminated zone. (See examples in Appendix 6).

At higher levels of exposure, inhalation toxicology studies indicate CS can
cause chemical pneumonitis (pneumonia) and fatal pulmonary edema. (Victims
die by
drowning in their own lung fluids).92 CS exposure can also lead to reactive
airways (breathing) dysfunction.93 Oral toxicological studies note the
facility of CS to
cause severe gastro enteritis (intestinal irritation and ulcers) with
CS is a primary skin irritant and some individuals will develop contact
dermatitis even after
what appears to be an unproblematic initial exposure and severe blistering
can emerge several hours later.95

An exposure to even a low concentration of CS raises blood pressure and
there is a particular risk of health damage to anyone over 30, under
physical strain or having an undetected aneurysm (potential artery

At higher levels CS has been associated with heart failure, heptacellular
(liver) damage and death.97 98 One US based CS manufacturer, Federal
Laboratories, has warned that "Firing one Federal No. 230 Flite-Rite [tear
gas projectile] in a room [eight-feet by eight-feet by seven-feet], could
endanger the life of an average subject
if he stayed in the room for seven minutes.99 CS from canisters has also
caused acute mass chemical burns.100 (Figure 5 illustrates the severe
blistering following exposure to French CS Spray).

In vitro laboratory testing has shown CS to be clastogenic, (i.e. causes
disruption of chromosomes) and mutagenic (ie it has a facility to cause
inheritable genetic changes in organisms).101 Other studies have shown CS to
cause an increase in the number of abnormal chromosomes.102

The risks of a build up of exposure are increased because of the acquisition
of tolerance to CS.103 This tolerance is stronger in those of higher
commitment and or intelligence104. One military study on the carcinogenicity
(cancer causing ) potential of CS was inconclusive but observed that chronic
exposure to very low concentrations of CS is of greater concern and should
be further studied.105 This is an important safety consideration for police
officers who may be regularly exposed to cross contamination when using CS
which is particularly persistent. Military CS1, a micronised powder version
(and CS2 - a siliconized, micro-encapsulated version of CS1) are even more
persistent and therefore form an environmental clean up hazard.

75. OPCW, "Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production,
Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and On their
Destruction, (Corrected Version)" 8 August 1994, the Hague, Netherlands.
76 "As with other foreign chemicals which man(sic) may be exposed, no matter
how detailed, extensive and carefully effected are the pre-clinical toxicity
investigations and observations in controlled human exposures, there can be
no complete guarantee from such studies that there is
absolute safety in use for a given chemical." Ballantyne, B. (1997) "Riot
Control Agents - Biomedical and Health Aspects of the Use of Chemicals in
Civil Disturbances". Medical Annual. pp.7-41.
77."Politician and scientist alike must accept the inescapable conclusion
that any substance capable of producing an intolerable irritation at low
concentrations must also produce a concomitantly high toxicity. In other
words, the existence of ideal riot agents of sufficient safety not to impair
the health of rioters or accidentally exposed innocents is merely notional."
Jones, R. (1973) "Return To Riot Control". New Scientist. May 31,

82. Chung, C.W., Giles, A.L. (1972) "Sensitization of guinea pigs to
alpha-chloroacetophenone (CN) and ortho-chlorobenzylidene malononitrile
(CS), tear gas chemicals". Journal of Immunology. 109. pp 284-293.
83. Pennys, N.S., Israel, R.M., Indgin, S.M. (1969)

Contact dermatitis due
to 1-chloroacetophenone and chemical mace". New England Journal of
Medicine. 281. pp.413-415. See also Penney, N.S. (1971) "Contact dermatitis
due to chloroacetophenone". Fed Proc. 30. pp96-99.
84. Oksala, A. and Salminen, L. (1975) "Eye Injuries Caused By Tear Gas Hand
Weapons". Acta Opthalmologica. Vol 53. pp 908-913.
85. Levine, R.A., Stahl, C.J. (1968) "Eye injury caused by tear gas
weapons". Amer.J. Opthalmol. 65. pp 497-508.
86. Rengstorff, R.H. (1969) "Tear gas and riot control agents: A review of
eye effects". Optom Week. 60. pp 25-28.
87. Chapman, A.J., White, C. (1978) "Death resulting from Lachrymatory
agents". J.Forensic Sci. 23. pp 527-530.
88. Stein, A.A., Kirwan, W.E. (1964) "Chloroacetophenone (teargas
poisoning): A clinico-pathologic report". J. Forensic Sci. 9. pp 374-382.
lxxv and CN) in rats and rabbits". Arch. Env. Health. 24. pp 449-454.
95. Sidell, F.R. (1997) "Riot Control Agents" in 'Medical Aspects of
Chemical and Biological Warfare', Chapter 12. Borden Institute, Walter Reed
Army Mdical Center. pp 308-325.
96. Schindel, H.J. (1993) "Assessment of health effects of CS gas".
Gesundddheitwesen, Germany. 55. pp 372-5.
97. See Himsworth, H. (1971) "Report of the Inquiry into the Medical and
Toxicological Aspects of CS (orthochlorobenzylidene Malonitrile, II
Enquiry into Toxicological Aspects of CS and its Use for Civil purposes".
HMSO, England. Also Save the Children (1989) "Report on the status of
Palestinian Children: Uprising in the Occupied territories 9 Dec 1987-9 East
Jerusalem, Israel". And Krapf, R., Thalmann, H. (1981) "Akute
Exposition durch CS-Rauchgas und linische Beobachtungen". Schweiz Med
Wochenschr. 11. 2056-2060 cited in Hu et. al. 1989, op.cit
98. See New Scientist, 5 February 1976, "Teargas in high doses is lethal"
p.267. See also "The Himsworth Committee Report". HMSO, Cmnd 4775,
99.Quoted from Nairn, A. (1988) "Tears of Rage". Multinational Monitor. Vol
9. no4, April.
100. Zekri, A.M.B., King, W.W.K., Yeung, R. and Taylor, W.R.J. (1995) "Acute
mass burns caused by o-chlorobenzylidene malononitrile (CS) tear
gas". Burns. Vol. 21. No.8. pp 586-589.
101. Hu, H., Fine, J., Epstein, P., Kelsey, K., Reynolds, P. and Walker, B.
(1989) "Tear Gas - Harrassing Agent or Toxic |Chemical Weapon".
JAMA. August 4. pp 660-663.
102. Schmid, E., Bauchinger, M. (1991) "Analysis of the aneuploidy inducing
capacity of 2-chlorobenzylidene malononitrile (CS) and metabolites
in V79 Chinese hamster cells." Mutagesis. 6. pp 303-5.
103. Beswick, F.W., Holland, P., Kemp, K.H. (1972) "Acute effects of
exposure to ortho-chlorobenzylidene malononitrile and the development of
tolerance". Br. J. Ind. Med. 29. pp 298-306.
104. Klapper, J.A., McColloch, M.A., Merkey, R.P. (1971) "The Relationship
of Personality to Tolerance of an Irritant Compound". Edgewood
Arsenal Medical Research Laboratories, USA. Technical Report 4577.
105. McNamara, B.P., Rennie, R.A., Rozmiarek, H., Ford, D.F., Owens, E.J.
(1973) "CS: A study of Carcinogenicity". Edgewood Arsenal National
Technical Information Service, USA. Publication FB TR-73027.

No comments: